Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon!

Opening Meme:

  1. What fine part of the world are you reading from today? Ontario, Canada
  2. Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to? The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  3. Which snack are you most looking forward to? Popcorn!
  4. Tell us a little something about yourself! I’m a grad student almost finished with my MA in International Affairs which means that reading for pleasure has mostly been pushed aside for the last few years… I’m hoping today will be a nice break from focusing on reading academic texts and bring me back to my favourite childhood memories of being totally absorbed in a book for hours!
  5. If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to? This is my first Readathon, and I’m most excited about doing a buddy read of The Hound of the Baskervilles with my best friend and having Skype check-ins with her to discuss our progress!

End of Event Meme:

  1. Which hour was most daunting for you? I ended up falling asleep between hours 20-22 so I guess those were the most daunting.
  2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year? Highly recommend Peter May’s Lewis Trilogy as they are very fast-paced mystery novels that are almost impossible to put down!
  3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next season? N/A
  4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon? Really impressed by how smoothly all the website updates etc. went on an hourly basis… well organized!
  5. How many books did you read? I ended up reading 6 books cover-to-cover totalling 1281 pages.
  6. What were the names of the books you read? “How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less” by Sarah Glidden, “The Hound of the Baskervilles” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, “Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood” by Marjane Satrapi, “The Chessmen” by Peter May, and “Prelude to Bruise by Saeed Jones.
  7. Which book did you enjoy most? “The Hound of the Baskervilles” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle because it was a buddy read with my best friend!
  8. Which did you enjoy least? I actually really liked all the books I read, but I guess the one I enjoyed the least was “How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less” by Sarah Glidden.
  9. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time? I definitely would love to participate in the readathon again as a reader, but I would like to be more involved in the social media side of things as well.
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Classics Club #9: “Anne of Avonlea” by LM Montgomery

“We make our own lives wherever we are, after all… . They are broad or narrow according to what we put into them, not what we get out. Life is rich and full here… everywhere… if we can only learn how to open our whole hearts to its richness and fulness.” ~ Anne of Avonlea, Chapter 15

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After rereading Anne of Green Gables, I was so excited to continue the series that I absolutely devoured this book in a day!  Anne of Avonlea follows Anne from about 16-18 as she grows into her role in society as a school teacher.  This was a perfect book to read as winter transforms into spring here in Canada, because there are many passages describing the beauty of changing seasons and the simple magic of springtime and flowers.  I certainly enjoyed this book, but not quite as much a the first.

For me, this book is not as poignant as the first in the series.  Perhaps this is because I didn’t read and reread Anne of Avonlea throughout my childhood so it doesn’t have as many nostalgic memories for me.  I am also not a fan of the characters of Davy and Dora (who I was already prejudiced against because of their annoying portrayal on Road to Avonlea), so their constant presence at Green Gables was a source of irritation for me.  Some of the other new characters seemed a little over the top (*ahem* Miss Lavender *ahem*) and less realistic than the characters I knew and loved from the first novel.  Lastly I thought there were times when Anne of Avonlea came across as a little overly preachy about the dangers of miscommunication and the importance of forgiveness.  While this is certainly an important moral lesson, it could have been portrayed a little more subtly, in my opinion.

Anne-of-Avonlea-anne-of-green-gables-4289928-500-333Friendship runs deep in this novel, and in Chapter 15 Anne delcares that she is “so thankful for friendship. It beautifies life so much.”  I enjoyed the way Anne and Diana’s friendship endures and adapts as they grow into adulthood and face changes such as Diana’s engagement.  There is also a strong thread throughout the story about the value of intergenerational friendships and respect.  As Anne reflects on the end of her days teaching at Avonlea School, she remarks about the many lessons and insights she has gained from her young pupils.  The Avonlea Village Improvement Society’s small triumphs in spite of the initial scorn of older villagers is another sign not to discredit youth.  At the same time, however, it is clear throughout the novel that Anne has grown through her friendships with the older women in her life including Mrs. Allan, Miss Lavender, and yes even Mrs. Lynde.

Of course I can’t talk about friendships in this book without discussing the development of Anne and Gil’s friendship (following her forgiveness of the Carrots incident in the last chapter of AoGG) and the swoon-worthiness of the few mentions of Gilbert in Anne of Avonlea (Chapter 19 and 30 stand out in this regard). Take for instance this quote from Anne-of-Avonlea-anne-of-green-gables-4290515-720-480Chapter 19: “In Gilbert’s future there was always a girl with big, limpid gray eyes, and a face as fine and delicate as a flower. He had made up his mind, also, that his future must be worthy of its goddess. . . . He meant to keep himself worthy of Anne’s friendship and perhaps some distant day her love; and he watched over word and thought and deed as jealously as if her clear eyes were to pass in judgment on it. She held over him the unconscious influence that every girl, whose ideals are high and pure, wields over her friends; an influence which would endure as long as she was faithful to those ideals and which she would as certainly lose if she were ever false to them.”  I mean honestly, do literary heros get better than this?  It is so deliciously aggravating to watch Anne continue on oblivious to it all when she has such a charming/perfect admirer.

These may sound morbid, but another of my favourite things about Anne of Avonlea are the plentitude of graveyard scenes.  Throughout this book Anne is seen visiting the grave of Matthew and paying respects with flowers.  She also adopts the grave of Hester Gray, a local woman who had died young many years before.  Anne says: “No matter how long I’d lived in heaven I’d like to look down and see somebody putting flowers on my grave.” (Chapter 25)  I have so many fond memories of visiting the cemetery with my grandmother and, even now, find walking amongst tombstones to be very peaceful.  Genealogy and family history is another of my main hobbies, so I appreciated how Anne’s graveyard visits highlighted the importance of remembering and paying tribute to those gone ahead.  It is, I think, refreshing and unique to see a graveyard portrayed neither as spooky/supernatural nor just for tragic funeral scenes; rather, throughout Anne of Avonlea the cemetery is a place of calm restfulness where Anne can pay tribute to her loved ones.

Anne-of-Avonlea-anne-of-green-gables-4284307-500-333Lastly, the main theme and lesson that I drew from Anne of Avonlea relates to perseverance.  Although Anne’s original dreams of university are waylaid by Matthew’s death, she does not abandon this ambition; rather, she continues her studies while teaching and helping Marilla at Green Gables.  During this two-year detour, Anne remains remarkably content about her current situation in life.  It was an excellent reminder to practice gracious acceptance of one’s present lot in life and enjoy each stage even when it feels as though one is just biding time waiting for the next “important” milestone.  I especially enjoyed Marilla’s wisdom about making “our own lives wherever we are” (Chapter 15, full quote at the top of the post) by finding fulfilment in every situation.

“I believe the nicest and sweetest days are not those on which anything very splendid or wonderful or exciting happens but just those that bring simple little pleasures, following one another softly, like pearls slipping off a string.” ~ Anne of Avonlea, Chapter 19

Rating: 4/5
Pages: 304

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Classics Club #8 – “Anne of Green Gables” by L.M. Montgomery

“Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.” ~ Anne of Green Gables, Chapter 19

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The book is like a hug… a lovely hug of nostalgia and family history and character-building and beautiful scenery. I have so many wonderful memories attached to this book and these characters, that returning to them felt like I was revisiting a place where I had spent many happy vacations! Since the books and the movies are intrinsically linked in my mind and heart, the recent death of the beloved Jonathan Crombie (the charming actor who plays Gilbert) inspired me to reread the book series.

My beautiful great-grandmother (right) and two of her younger siblings around the time she was beginning her teaching career and the family would have read Anne of Green Gables.

My beautiful great-grandmother (right) and two of her younger siblings around the time she was beginning her teaching career and the family would have read Anne of Green Gables.

For me Anne of Green Gables has such a dear connection to the women in my ancestry. I am fortunate to have a memoir written by my great-grandmother’s sister of their childhood homesteading in the prairies of Manitoba, in which she describes the family’s love of this particular novel. So many of my female relatives, like Anne, became teachers in small one-room schoolhouses in the early part of the 20th C, and I grew up always hearing these stories at family gatherings. My great-aunt has always had an Anne rag doll displayed in her living room and rereads the books every time she is feeling under the weather (which, now that she is approaching 90, is more often that not meaning these books are an almost constant presence on her night stand). My own copies of the books were a cherished gift from my grandmother complete with precious inscriptions of the date and occasion on which I received each of them. Growing up I spent more hours than I can count with my sister engrossed in the world of Avonlea through both the Anne movies and the Road to Avonlea TV series. Knowing that I am the 5th generation in my family to read and enjoy Anne of Green Gables gives this book such special significance to me.

This time through reading Anne of Green Gables produced some serious nostalgia.  It definitely reminded me of my own childhood, from which I am now several years removed, both because I could remember reading the book for the first time when I was about 8 and because it is, at its core, a book about the simple joys of childhood.  It brought me back to a time when I too named the trees in my yard, created elaborate outdoor forts with my sister, mismeasured a cake recipe before important company, envisioned imaginary monsters that scared me half to death, engaged in academic rivalries with the boys in my class, formed and disbanded clubs and societies on a weekly basis, worried about being too skinny and freckled, always had my nose buried in a book, and participated in extraordinarily ordinary adventures with my own “bosom friend”.

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The characters of this story are so wonderfully detailed and there is definitely an arc of character-building for most of the main personae.  Of course, I saw some of myself reflected in Anne’s traits, both good and bad!  But it was Marilla’s development that stood out to me most as I read, as she slowly transforms by letting herself be open to love, joy, and connectedness.  When people talk about wanting more “strong female characters”, I always am hoping for more Annes and Marillas and Dianas and Mrs. Lyndes.

Much of the descriptions of growing up and ambitions rang so true for me at this stage of my life.  I especially enjoyed this quote: “For we pay a price for everything we get or take in this world; and although ambitions are well worth having, they are not to be cheaply won, but exact their dues of work and self-denial, anxiety and discouragement.” (Chapter 36)  After a challenging first year in an MA program, I could relate totally!  Anne’s bittersweet transition out of childhood and the internal struggles she faces meeting her own expectations are both experiences that I identified with strongly this time reading the book.

There is something about the way Montgomery’s prose describes the scenery that means one can’t help but have a vivid imagination while reading it.  As always, I ended the book with a longing to pay PEI a visit!  Since I am currently living in a city and oftentimes feel quite alienated from nature, I especially loved her wonderful passages that brought the countryside to life!

anne49Although I read and reread Anne of Green Gables many times when I was younger, it has probably been 10 years since I last read it and, at that time, I got bogged down in some of the later books in the series once it moved past her childhood exploits to her time at university, career as a school teacher, and married life.  Now that I am older and can better identify with some of those themes, I am very excited to continue on in the series!

My future seemed to stretch out before me like a straight road. I thought I could see along it for many a milestone. Now there is a bend in it. I don’t know what lies around the bend, but I’m going to believe that the best does. It has a fascination of its own, that bend…” ~ Anne of Green Gables, Chapter 38

Rating: 5/5
Pages: 314

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Classics Club #7 – “The Hobbit” by JRR Tolkien

“It was at this point that Bilbo stopped. Going on from there was the bravest thing he ever did. The tremendous things that happened afterward were as nothing compared to it. He fought the real battle in the tunnel alone, before he ever saw the vast danger that lay in wait.” ~ The Hobbit, Chapter 12

Over the weekend I finally read The Hobbit after intending to ever since the movie came out. I am usually a stickler for reading the book before the movie, so I still haven’t seen either of the movies yet! Since the third and final film is coming out this December, I knew I was running out of time to read the book, and thus the stage was set for me to tackle my first Tolkien.

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Full disclaimer that, despite my glowing review of the Narnia series, fantasy is not one of my top genres and I have tried in vain multiple times to watch the LOTR movies.  With this in mind, it is no surprise that this is not my favourite Classics Club book, but there were definitely still sections I enjoyed.

One of the things that annoyed me the most was the bizarre quasi-musical vibe of the book.  The characters kept breaking into song at the most inopportune times.  I also found the story dragged on a little long and soon the obstacles started to blur together.  At the very end, Bilbo is reminiscing about his adventure, and I didn’t even remember they had battled trolls at the beginning.  It sounds silly to say I found this novel somewhat boring, but I definitely felt disengaged from the plot much of the time.

That being said, it is clear that Tolkien is a gifted writer and there were many passages of prose that made me pause and roll them over in my brain again to really enjoy their weight. Maybe it is because I went on my first big trip sans parents this summer, but I also really connected with the passages dealing with advent8291199751_fe16ff4ec0_oure, travel, and the importance of seeing the world for yourself.

The character development of Bilbo was another aspect of the novel that I appreciated.  At the beginning he is reluctant to join the company of dwarfs and questions his utility and ability to contribute to the quest.  Watching his self confidence and aptitude grow, demonstrated in part by his increasing sword skills, was one of my favourite parts of the book.  For me this was especially evidenced by his orchestration of the dwarves’ river escape from the elves.  In my opinion, the importance of believing in your own abilities and having faith in yourself was one of the key take-aways from the novel.

Ultimately, even though it wasn’t my favourite book, I am still glad I gave it a chance, because I think it was a worthwhile read and there were a number of allegorical lessons/truths that I enjoyed.  If you enjoy fantasy, adventure, or travel, I would certainly recommend you consider reading The Hobbit.

“Surely you don’t disbelieve the prophecies, because you had a hand in bringing them about yourself? You don’t really suppose, do you, that all your adventures and escapes were managed by mere luck, just for your sole benefit? You are a very fine person, Mr. Baggins, and I am very fond of you; but you are only quite a little fellow in a wide world after all!”The Hobbit, Chapter 19

Rating: 3/5
Pages: 305

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Classics Club #1: “The Chronicles of Narnia” by C.S. Lewis

“Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things – trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself.  Suppose we have.  Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. . . . That’s why I’m going to stand by the play-world.  I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it.  I’m going to live as much like a Narnian as I can even if there isn’t any Narnia.” ~ The Silver Chair p181-182

The Chronicles of Narnia coverThe first book I tackled for the Classics Club was actually a seven-part series of books, The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis.

My first introduction to the world of Narnia was my mother reading The Lion,  the Witch, and the Wardrobe out-loud to my younger sister and I when I was around 8 years old.  This was followed by attending a production of this book put on by a local kids group.  I distinctly remember sitting in the back of my closet hoping the wall would open like the wardrobe to reveal a lamppost shinning in the centre of a snowy wood!  I reread The Lion,  the Witch, and the Wardrobe a few more times growing up, but somehow I missed out on the rest of this wonderful series!

Over the course of seven books, The Chronicles of Narnia details much of Narnian history from its creation to its eventual destruction and, in the in-between, includes wicked witches, kidnapped Princes, grand sea voyages, runaway children, plucky heroes and heroines, enchanted caves, talking animals and all manner of mythical creatures, epic battles, and of course Aslan.  The beautiful illustrations by Pauline Baynes are whimsical and add so much to the overall feel of the novels.

There is considerable debate among fans about the correct reading order of these books; whether chronological order or publication order is better.  Although I can see the merits of chronological order as it does make more sense allegorically in that fashion, I prefer publication order as I think some of the magic is lost if the reader doesn’t first enter the snowy and mysterious world of Narnia through the back of a forgotten wardrobe.

As a Christian I personally enjoyed the various religious symbolism and narratives that were interwoven throughout the Chronicles.  Some of my favourite moments with religious overtones include Eustace’s failure to shed the dragon’s skin without the help of Aslan and Puddleglum’s proclamation of faith in the face of doubts (which I copied at the top of this post).  And of course many of Lucy’s interactions with Aslan are heartwarming including her goodbye before his sacrifice in The Lion,  the Witch, and the Wardrobe, his gentle admonishment after she neglected to follow his path in Prince Caspian, and her joy and elation upon seeing the new Narnia in The Final Battle. I do wonder if those from other faiths would find the series a little too overtly “preachy” at times though?

Voyage of the Dawn TreaderMy favourite book in the series is either The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe or The Voyage of the Dawn TreaderThe Lion,  the Witch, and the Wardrobe just seems so much like the quintessential Narnia, and I love it all from the snowy landscape to the conflicted Mr. Tumnus to the children’s oversized furs to the seduction of Edmund with turkish delight to the delightful Mr. and Mrs. Beaver to Aslan’s resurrection and reuniting with the children.  The Voyage of the Dawn Treader had an equally magical air and I am partial to it because it is the story of a fantastical sea voyage.  I especially enjoyed the progression of Eustace’s character arch.  And who could forget the ever gallant mouse, Reepicheep?  The various islands they land on with unique challenges for each of them reminded me quite a bit of A Little Prince and the different planets (types of people) he encounters on his trip.

My least favourite of the seven is The Magician’s Nephew which likely had an influence on my opinion of reading order as well.  I found it a little disjointed and especially didn’t like that the White Witch managed to follow the children back to England.  I also hated the Uncle Andrew character (He is a villain after all!) and didn’t like that Narnia and Jadis’ entry into the realm was a result of his meddling with magic.  While it was a good fantasy novel, it just didn’t FEEL like a Narnia story in my opinion.

All in all I thoroughly enjoyed the series and am very glad to have finally read all the books.  The Chronicles of Narnia definitely deserves its place as a classic of children’s literature.  Narnia remains as enchanting now as it was when I was young!

Rating: 4.5/5
Pages: 1,614

Tumnus and Lucy

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Hello and an introduction…

Hello!  Welcome to my little corner of the web – I’m so glad you found me!  I’m starting this blog as a place to collect my thoughts and ramblings on period dramas, classic literature, and other fabulous books.

I am a life-long lover of the printed word… reading was a huge part of my childhood and has definitely had a substantial impact on the person I am today.  History has also always fascinated me, and I love learning about how people lived in bygone days.  These two interests combine to meet in classic literature, historical fiction, and period dramas!

For more information about me, feel free to check out my “About” page or leave a much-appreciated comment.

Until next time,
Innes

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